On Wednesday, after the news outlets all broke the sensational headlines that “the” study linking vaccines to the autism epidemic had been reported to be a fraud, Mark Blaxill wrote the following:
"The desperation of the medical industry to defend it profits and programs is never more on display when they launch a new attack on Andrew Wakefield. Today’s allegations are not new, they are just an attempt to capture another news cycle and ABC and CNN gladly oblige. This is a time that reminds me of Edmund Burke’s quote, 'all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.' I stand with Andy."
There was a time in my life when I had planned on going into journalism. As it turned out, my life’s path took me in a different direction. There have been times when I wondered if I shouldn’t have stayed in that field. After this last week, though, I’m kind of glad I’m not a journalist; I’d hate to have to explain the complete lack of moral and/or intellectual integrity that was displayed by too many in that field.
I’m really not sure what was worse. Was it Brian Deer’s cynical and dishonest persecution of Dr. Andrew Wakefield, or was it the total buy-in of people like Anderson Cooper ⎯ one of the few guys in the mainstream media I thought was worth a damn? I was certainly wrong about him.
The media fell over itself breaking the astounding news that the British Medical Journal was calling the original case series by Dr. Wakefield, et al a “fraud.” Did none of those enterprising reporters have the time and energy to look past the headline and examine the story itself? Does the work of a tabloid journalist acquire credibility simply because it’s published in a “prestigious” medical journal with ties to the pharmaceutical industry?
The mainstream press has been pounding on its theme: pity the poor, misguided parents who desperately turned to a charlatan for answers. Well, to paraphrase J.B. Handley, we don’t need your sympathy; we need the truth, with all its details and nuances.
Reporting the truth, though, requires effort. And reporting the whole truth may conflict with the business philosophy of publishers and networks ⎯ an attitude that filters down to editors and reporters: simplistic sensationalism sells!
Why risk losing your audience by presenting all of the facets of a very complex issue. It’s easier to boil down a position (especially a position attractive to the industry that spends the most advertising dollars) to the personification of a single individual. In the view of the arrogant media, the public is far more prepared to watch the downfall of a man than they are willing to think about ideas that many men and women have developed and debate.
That’s the present Brian Deer gave to the mainstream media, to the absolute satisfaction of the pharmaceutical/public-health establishment. He created a straw man to knock down and create a loud noise in its fall.
What the media fails to understand, though, is that the only similarity between that straw man and Andrew Wakefield is the name. The Andrew Wakefield created by Brian Deer is a myth. He’s fictitious. And he’s as devoid of substance and truth as is his creator.
The real Dr. Wakefield is not so easily knocked to the ground. He has proven time and again that he can stand tall against lies. He stands with us.
And I stand with Andy.